The genetic love child of “Rainman with a gun” and “John Wick C.P.A.”, “The Accountant” couples Oscar caliber talent with a worthy cause and outlandish script to create an incredibly enjoyable action flick.
Ben Affleck stars in the title role as Christian Wolff, an extremely talented accountant who is far better with numbers than he is with people. He appears to like people and goes out of his way to help others out, but their tendencies to ramble on annoy him. We can see from his unveiled facial expressions that small talk and social courtesies cause him physically pain. Flashbacks throughout the film give us glimpses into his childhood. In one of these early scenes, when his parents ask a specialist what is wrong with him, the answer is “I’m not a fan of labels.” This was a time before much research had been done and a common label would have been “Mentally Impaired” or “Developmentally Delayed,” both of which have a hope-dashing stigma attached to them. Young Christian appears to be suffering from a constant stimulus overload and an inability to express himself adequately to others. The texture of certain clothing or furniture causes him pain. He has panicked outbursts when a task he has committed himself to cannot be completed. Many of us may recognize these symptoms immediately, and later the film makes it clear. Christian exists on the high functioning range of the Autism Spectrum.
Chris’s father (Robert C. Treveiler), a Colonel in the Army, rejects help and advice from any others and instead employs his own form of therapy. “Properly channeled aggression overcomes many flaws,” he sneers while his two sons undergo brutal martial arts sparring. Chris is molded by the borderline abusive hard-love only an arrogant Army Father can give. It’s an interesting dynamic since the love he has for his two son’s is real, but his methods for expressing it may be misguided at best.
As an adult, Chris leads a life of solitude, and it’s well into the story before we learn the fates of the rest of his family. He’s honed his aptitude at math and badassery into a unique business, uncooking the financial records of the most dangerous people around the globe. This, of course, catches the eye of the US Department of Justice, and he soon has both the director (J.K. Simmons) and a young agent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) hot on his heels. To further complicate the plot, what should have been a routine financial review for a tech company suddenly develops into a game of cat and mouse when a rival fixer (Jon Bernthal) begins knocking off top level employees.
The script for this action-thriller is all over the place, almost to a fault. The film is littered with accurate references to autism, some which may only be obvious to parents who have raised an autistic child. The tone is uneven at times, with very dark moments butting up against unexpected humor. Some of the “twists” that occur are incredibly contrived and could almost be groan-worthy if they weren’t so darn entertaining. Contrasting with this are scenes that slow down enough for various characters to sit and talk, weaving tales that help us understand who they are and what motivates their actions. Finally, near the very end of the film, we are subjected to what feels like an education PSA about autism,and how we shouldn’t underestimate those on the spectrum. Everything said during this segment, is true, and important for the uneducated to be made aware of, but it’s also a touch melodramatic and condescending. A script this uneven rarely produces anything good, but in this case, its strengths far outweigh its flaws.
“The Accountant” is a surprisingly enjoyable and fun film, and certainly one of the better popcorn action flicks of 2016.
Movie Watching Note: It’s often said that a person diagnosed with Autism looks at the world as if they are behind a window. While watching the movie, pay attention to how many shots intentionally frame either Chris’s or the audience’s view from behind a window or glass.